In the early 1950’s, several cases of animal abuse and neglect prompted a small group of concerned citizens to begin working to help these animals by providing them with a temporary shelter in a safe environment. In 1953, through the perseverance of this group, the local Humane Society was created, becoming part of an international humane movement existing in North America for more than 100 years. An independent Affiliate of the Ontario Humane Society (OSPCA), it was granted its charter in August 1954, and in March 1957, with the generous assistance of local veterinarian Dr James Harvey, a small one – roomed shelter was opened on London Road in Sarnia Township.
This little shelter was maintained on a shoe-sting budget, but offered a welcome refuge to many animals. In 1960, the site on which the building stood was sold and new quarters were urgently required. Further volunteer efforts secured a long-term lease of a site on Campbell Street, and the shelter building and its animals were moved to the new location. An additional building was donated by a generous local business and the two were joined to form the new animal shelter, which was officially opened by the Mayor in February 1963. Several mail campaigns were organized to pay for refurbishing and improving the premises. This building was to serve well for over 20 years. During this time, the Shelter grew and sought to provide pound service for area Municipalities. Agreements were secured first with Sarnia Township and Point Edward, and followed with Petrolia and the City of Sarnia in 1965 and 1966.
In 1972, the Society was again notified that it would have to move. It was determined at the outset that the move would be to an attractive location and that a new, specially designed larger building was required. It was the intention that work on this building would begin within a year, however, the search for a suitable site was to continue for nine frustrating years.
During this period, a building fund was initiated, determined efforts were made to enlarge the membership to a point where its financial support is now significant, and the present, regular newsletter were undertaken. Increased financial support from municipalities employing pound service was also sought. Finally, after a lengthy search and several bitter disappointments, the City of Sarnia agreed in 1980 to provide land for the present shelter.
By this time, the building on Campbell Street had deteriorated to the point where it barely met the standards required by the Department of Agriculture and it was becoming seriously overcrowded. The staff nevertheless, maintained the obsolete building and attended many animals in very trying conditions during the seemingly never ending wait.
Much of 1980 saw lengthy discussions regarding rezoning and legal agreements. Time was used during imposed delays to study other shelters and establish criteria for the building. This research led to the design by a local architect, of the present building, of which the Society is justifiably proud. Once the site for the new Shelter had been selected at the corner of Exmouth Street and Harbour Road, two years of active fund raising ensued.
In August 1982, 29 years after the creation of The Sarnia & District Humane Society, construction of the new Shelter was under way. In July 1983, it was officially opened.
The building and the organization continues to grow and change to best meet the needs of the animals and communities it serves. Its’ staff and volunteers all work diligently to keep moving forward for our animal guests “Until They All Find a Home.”
If you are interested in supporting your local Humane Society, check out our How to Donate page!